Better Meat Quality with Duroc Genetics

GLOBAL - Duroc genetics contribute towards improved meat quality, according to Lorne and Vicki Tannas, swine specialists and nucleus support for Genesus farms in China.
calendar icon 24 March 2014
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Lorne and Vick Tannas are swine specialists and nucleus support for Genesus farms in China.

The March/April 2014 issue of Pig International features an article "Duroc Genetics Improves Meat Quality" by Zoe Kay. To those of us who have been using Duroc for 15 to 20 years in our breeding programme this is not a surprise. What is a surprise, is it has taken white breeds this long to realize that lean does not mean better, write Lorne and Vicki Tannas, swine specialists and nucleus support for Genesus farms in China.

In the 90’s I worked at the Lacombe Research Center where white sows were bred with backfat levels of 9 mm to see what adverse effects it had on reproduction. The other side effect was that the markets also became extremely lean. People would refuse to participate in focus groups and on taste panels because of the tough, tasteless meat they were given to feed their families with. This is not what any producer wants to hear.

Zoe points out that Japanese and Asian markets have long prized the Duroc for its meat eating quality. The pigs have a higher level of intramuscular fat which results in a marbling effect. The meat is also darker in color, lower drip loss and slightly higher pH. Duroc have slightly higher back fat and are reported to be tastier and with a lower bite resistance. Zoe points out that other European companies have tried to use other rare breed blood lines in their programmes but have had no effect on meat quality. The Duroc was originally bred to capitalize on their productivity of fast growing, vigorous piglets. The resulting pork has superior eating qualities, which is noted to be more succulent in taste panels.

The Duroc is a terminal sire line. This means they are not bred for litter size and tend to have small litters compared to white breeds. As the proportion of Duroc genes increases, lean carcass content decreases and backfat level increases. Studies on 0 per cent, 25 per cent and 50 per cent Duroc genes have been performed. Results show that it takes 50 per cent or greater to see this significant meat quality improvement. This means the pure Red Duroc is the choice for sire on female white breeds with larger litters. The White Duroc, which is generally a Duroc crossed with a York or a Landrace does not allow for enough of the Duroc gene to improve meat quality.

When I was a kid growing up in the 60’s it took 98 days for a chicken to reach 1.6 kgs. Today the chicken takes 37 days to reach 1.6 kgs. The poultry producers have done a great job of reducing costs of production. The problem with this strategy the chicken has become the tofu of meats. Tasteless and lacking in texture, without 7 special spices it would have no flavor at all. Pork does not have to do this. Duroc breeders have learned that they can reduce days to market but retain intramuscular fat content by a strong genetic selection programme. Some better companies are seeing a reduction of 2 days to market every year on Duroc in their programme while increasing intramuscular fat content as well.

"Utilizing Duroc genetics makes sense as a consistent and a commercially viable way to produce Quality Pork." Zoe Kay.

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